Cleveland is trailing behind Columbus in Ohio’s business race, and municipal officials cite several factors for this, with a significant one being the lack of available “shovel-ready land”.
Despite Cleveland’s strengths in healthcare, education, and parks, the city has struggled to attract new businesses, often losing opportunities to central Ohio. According to Jeff Epstein, Cleveland’s integrated development chief, businesses prefer locations with ease of operations, such as green fields in suburban areas.
Examples of successful business growth in Columbus, like Amazon, Google, and Intel, highlight this trend. During a meeting with the Cleveland City Council Development, Planning, and Sustainability Committee, officials emphasized that the absence of shovel-ready land poses a major obstacle to business prospects.
Committee members also expressed concerns about deteriorating buildings and vacant spaces in the city. Councilman Anthony Hairston acknowledged receiving inquiries for available land at City Hall, but Cleveland often falls short in providing clean and ready-to-use sites.
In response, Epstein submitted a proposal to establish a site-readiness fund, which Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb outlined in his recent “State of the City” address.
The aim is to reverse Cleveland’s job and population losses over the past three decades by creating opportunities, attracting residents, strengthening neighborhoods, and eliminating blight.
The proposed fund, expected to have $50 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and an additional $50 million from county and state partners, would strategically prepare sites for businesses to establish themselves.
Epstein believes Cleveland can compete globally for business but needs to address the site readiness aspect. Hairston mentioned that they are exploring land throughout the city, including areas with abandoned structures requiring demolition.
They are committed to working with partners to ensure readiness for future business opportunities. Currently, the site-readiness fund idea is in its early stages and awaits review and voting by the complete council.